Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Channeling Cheerful Hamster

Above: curry with "cheerful hamster" from Engrish.com

A friend of mine who is generally rather acerbic passed along this advice from a radio psychologist for dealing with interpersonal conflict:
just act "stupid and cheerful." (You know: fake it.)
We both thought this was a brilliant idea.

But when I told it to another friend last night--a friend with a much sweeter demeanor--she said she's been doing it all her life, with the end result that she feels... stupid.

"Stupid and cheerful" appeals to me because I grew up in a family that took "smart and resentful" to the Olympics.
Though my strategies for dealing with difficult situations have been more about avoidance--become Invisible Girl; Duck and Cover; Don't Care, Disappear; Cut and Run--when I feel pushed, I can slip into Vengeful Cobra.

So, one has to tinker with the angle of the advice; but the central point is:
when something dangles in front of you and you know there's a hook in its center, don't bite--even though it's wrapped in yummy righteousness.
But you don't have to run away either.

I am grateful for any skills that help me stay present and not take the bait. For me, calling up the idea of a cheerful hamster helps. It adds some air, light, and space around the hook, which is a very dense, heavy, metal. (I've seen the Dalai Lama play something like the Cheerful Hamster.)

Cheerful Hamster's inherent silliness provides a cushion too, so I can stay put and take the blows, say, to my pride.

This doesn't work if it means doing violence to your own self. Obviously the idea isn't to twist on your own hook instead of someone else's.
Maybe my sweet friend might benefit more from calling up her inner tart apple: Howard Beale ("I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!") rather than Cheerful Hamster.

(I hadn't seen Peter Finch's ravings since Network came out in 1976--amazing how well they apply 33 years later.)


Rudyinparis said...

This immediately brought to mind smart advice I once got when working as a guard at the MIA-- the captain, a wonderful woman who I admired very much, suggested that when a patron challenged my authority, to pretend I was chewing gum. I mean, to really pretend--make it look like I was chewing gum and everything. This instantly signalled to the patron that you were stupid, and, thus, not worth arguing with. And she was right! Sometimes a bovine demeanor can be very helpful. That said--your cheerful friend you mention is right--it takes a certain amount of self-confidence, even panache, to take up the role while still maintaining the certainty *that it is just a role.* Hmmm. Something to think about.

bink said...

Cheerful Hamster says "Use your superpowers now, Bolt!".

Fresca said...

R: That's a wild piece of advice---you let the other person's prejudices serve as a boundary!

But yeah, like "cheerful and stupid" it also means you put yourself in the line of fire of the other person's prejudices. So, maybe better not to cultivate such an approach, in any serious way.

bink: Good one! I want that a human version of that cheerful hamster's rolling ball! It would help me, I'm sure, to navigate life more smoothly.

momo said...

You have just given me a strategy to practice during faculty meetings this semester! Don't take the bait; channel the cheerful hamster!

Fresca said...

Hooray, Momo! I would think faculty meetings almost require Cheerful Hamster, simply to keep the blood pressure within safe limits.

momo said...

I have also been reminded (lovingly) that I can be "too intense" even when what I am saying is what should be said, so I need to practice being quiet for a while.